As populations continue to age, there is a growing need for assistive technologies that help senior citizens maintain their autonomy and enjoy their lives. We explore the potential of teleoperated androids, which are embodied telecommunication media with humanlike appearances. Our exploratory study focused on the social aspects of Telenoid, a teleoperated android designed as a minimalistic human, which might facilitate communica- tion between senior citizens and its operators. We con- ducted cross-cultural field trials in Japan and Denmark by introducing Telenoid into care facilities and the pri- vate homes of seniors to observe how they responded to it. In Japan, we set up a teleoperation system in an elemen- tary school and investigated how it shaped communica- tion through the internet between the elderly in a care facility and the children who acted as teleoperators. In both countries, the elderly commonly assumed positive attitudes toward Telenoid and imaginatively developed various dialogue strategies. Telenoid lowered the barriers for the children as operators for communicating with demented seniors so that they became more relaxed to participate in and positively continue conversations using Telenoid. Our results suggest that its minimalistic human design is inclusive for seniors with or without dementia and facilitates inter-generational communication, which may be expanded to a social network of trans-national supportive relationships among all generations.
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IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2012